When I was seven, I was fascinated by an elderly man at my church. This gentleman spoke in normal English every time we interacted, but when he prayed he let loose with beautiful, indecipherable speeches in King James English. I couldn’t understand why he talked one way to me and another way to God. Charles Martin, bestselling novelist and author of What If It’s True?: A Storyteller’s Journey with Jesus, fascinates me in the same way.
A few years ago, Martin found himself sitting with an open Bible and asking: “What if every single word of this story is absolutely true and I can trust it? What if Jesus really is who he says he is? What if the King of the universe is speaking directly to me through the words of his book?”
The great strength of this book is Martin’s storytelling. You can trust him. When he chooses a scene, starts an anecdote, or jumps into an unexpected format, you can tell he’s a seasoned pro. The storytelling is seamless and occasionally breathtaking. He retells Bible stories with a vivid, cinematic quality. In the chapter on what it means to “take up your cross,” you feel the weight of those splintered beams on your back.
It frustrated me, though, when Martin stopped telling stories to ask the reader to pray, reflect on some Scripture, or read along with his exegesis. I was enjoying the movie, but Martin kept turning on the lights, getting on stage, and explaining what had happened so far.
For instance, Martin beautifully retells the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery (John 8:1–11). Here’s an example:
They throw her down. “We caught her!” They laugh, letting their eyes walk up and down her body. She wraps her arms around ...1
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